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New Horizons programs give seniors a chance to learn a new instrument

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Programs run through the Eastman Community Music School

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A musical instrument can open someone’s life.

The New Horizons Program through the Eastman Community Music School started in 1991. It has more than a dozen groups, ranging from symphonic bands, to string groups of all sizes, and for anyone at any skill level.

“The people start here,” said Patrice Risutcccia. “This is the entry level group for New Horizons, if you’re a string player. [It’s] where you learn about music. You learn to read music, you learn to play your instrument, and learn to play as a group and an ensemble.”

Patrice Ristuccia

Ristucccia started in the program almost a decade ago.

“I retired,” Ristuccia said. “When I was 60, I needed something. I love music and I have a friend who plays the flute. She said I’m going to New Horizons, and I had no idea what that was. I never played an instrument. I didn’t know how to read music, I never played a string instrument, so I walked in and had no idea what I was doing.

“I have oriental carpets, and I didn’t want spit on my carpets, and that eliminated a lot of the brass, I don’t want to deal with reeds because reeds can be finnicky, and that only left the strings,” Ristuccia said. “And the cello has the most beautiful sound.”

She says she was welcomed with open arms. Since then, Ristuccia has become the Program Representative to ECMS for the Green String ensemble. A group for musicians who are learning their instrument, and music at all for some, for the first time. It’s given Ristuccia, like many others, a chance to grow.

Green String ensemble rehearsal

“It’s fun. It’s really fun. I had to do things perfectly in my professional life,” Ristuccia said. “I was a type-A. Cello is not that. I had to learn to make mistakes, that I wasn’t perfect, I had to learn it was OK to just go ‘Oops, sorry’ and that was really a challenge.”

But after practice, comes performance. Members of many of the ensembles perform in community events and senior living centers. For Ristuccia, the reward for performance goes full circle.

“It’s fun because I visited all of my kids’ concerts, and my grandkids’ concerts, and all of their games,” Ristuccia said. “And now, when I have concerts, my family has to come and listen to me. That’s really very cool. It’s really a good feeling that my family comes and supports me, and that I’ve grown, and they like to hear my cello playing. That’s a pretty cool thing when you’re 70.”

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